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How to Build a Resonator Guitar

By fitting a cone into the front panel, this acoustic guitar can function as a resonator guitar

The resonator guitar is a slightly modified take on the traditional acoustic guitar. The difference lies mainly inside the instrument, in the form of a resonator cone that amplifies the sound substantially. Resonator guitars are common in country music because of the twangy flavor the resonator adds, and most are made from wood, although some have metal bodies that lend a characteristic honky-tonk sound. The distinctive and ornate patterns carved into the front of the guitars add extra resonance.

Find a suitable guitar-assembly kit that comes with precise instructions. If the necessary tools don’t come with the kit, buy them separately or make sure you have them on hand. Don't order a guitar kit in which there are f-holes, because you'll be cutting your own.

Order the resonator parts. Make sure your sound well isn't larger in circumference than your resonator cone, or else the cone will slide around. Resonator cones typically measure between 25 cm and 29 cm. You can buy resonator cones, sound wells and accessories as part of a standardized resonator kit, which includes cone, cone cover plate, sound well (a wooden, drum-shaped attachment in which the resonator cone sits) and fittings.

Customize the front panel so that you can fit the resonator cone into the guitar. Carefully carve out an opening into which the top of the resonator cone will sit flush against the guitar body. Carve out two f-holes for extra resonance on each side of the front. The f-holes on standard guitars are level with the sound hole, but on resonator guitars they’re higher up on the body, level with the last five frets on the fingerboard.

Fix the sound well in place by gluing it to the inside of the back panel of the guitar, level with the hole you’ve carved out for the resonator cone. The sound well will hold the resonator cone in place.

Assemble the acoustic guitar using the guitar kit, but don’t put on the strings yet. Attach the back of the guitar using the glue that came with your kit, and let the glue dry. In the meantime, tidy up your mess before finishing the job.

Place the resonator cone in its place and screw in the resonator bridge and tail piece. The resonator cone will slot into the sound well, and that's how it remains in place. If you bought the cone as part of a kit, the cavity for the bridge will be cut already, and all you need to do is put the parts in place and screw it in.

Put on a new set of strings.

Tip

Some guitar kits come with an instructional DVD. If this is your first build, consider using the DVD for guidance.

Practice carving the f-holes in some scrap wood before carving them into the guitar.

If in doubt about any of the steps during your installation, consult a luthier who can advise you.

Warning

Make absolutely sure that the glue is dry before putting on the strings. If the guitar parts don't properly adhere to each other, the tension from putting on the strings can cause the guitar to fall apart.

About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.